Further to the California energy anti-miracle, Paul Driessen of CFACT observes that while refineries sit idle, the poor struggle with rising energy bills and the politicians and special interests push for electric vehicles, blind to the environmental and human rights costs. And the last are horrendous especially in Third World countries where non-white children as well as adults labour in appallingly dangerous conditions for minimal pay to build these subsidy-dependent baubles. Where’s the outrage?
One of Driessen’s examples involves copper. “A typical internal combustion engine uses about 50 pounds (23 kilograms) of this vital everyday metal, the International Copper Association says. A hybrid car requires almost 90 lb (40 kg); a plug-in EV needs 132 lb (60 kg); and a big electric bus can use up to 812 lb (369 kg) of copper. If all 15,000,000 California cars were EVs, they would need almost 1,000,000 tons of copper. But copper ores average just 0.5% metal by weight, notes energy analyst Mark Mills. That means 200,000,000 tons of ore would have to be dug up, crushed, processed and refined to get that much copper. Almost every step in that process would require fossil fuels – and emit carbon dioxide and pollutants. That’s just California.” And just copper. And just the environmental cost.
Once you consider the “rare earths” needed for wind and solar, it gets far worse. Driessen writes that when it comes to these metallic elements, “most mining and processing is done overseas, much of it in China and Mongolia or by Chinese companies in Africa, Asia and Latin America” where few environmental or labour standards rules apply. For instance, “Most of the world’s rare earth ores are extracted near Baotou, Inner Mongolia by pumping acid into the ground, then processed using more acids and chemicals. Producing one ton of rare earth metals releases up to 420,000 cubic feet of toxic gases, 2,600 cubic feet of acidic wastewater, and a ton of radioactive waste. The resulting black sludge is piped into a foul, lifeless lake. Numerous local people suffer from severe skin and respiratory diseases, children are born with soft bones, and cancer rates have soared.”
Then there’s cobalt, a silent partner in lithium-ion batteries among other uses. “The world’s top producer of cobalt is the Democratic Republic of Congo, where some 40,000 children as young as four toil with their parents for less than $2 a day up to 12 hours a day. Many die in cave-ins, or more slowly from constant exposure to toxic, radioactive mud, dust, water and air that puts dangerous levels of cobalt, lead, uranium and other heavy metals into their bodies. The cobalt ore is sent to China for processing by the Chinese-owned Congo Dongfang International Mining Company. That’s just to meet current raw material requirements.”
His sizzling conclusion: “ALL these African, Asian, Latin American and minority American lives matter.” Environmental activists’ sizzling conclusion: for the most part, so far, it’s meh. Which is as puzzling as it is callous.